The Question of the Hour…
When you communicate with your partner, are you lifted up or are you left angry, hurt, and defeated?
The top predictor of divorce is when one or both partners show contempt in their relationship.
After twenty years of research, Dr. John Gottman of the University of Washington, concluded that the single, best predictor for divorce was when there was contempt expressed in the relationship.
Contempt is the opposite of respect.
Contempt is often expressed as criticism or sarcasm. Basically, it is when one partner puts down, or undermines the worth of the other partner.
Four types of communication that reveal contempt
1. Demands & Commands
Most people don’t like being told what to do. When you demand of your partner it’s easy to arouse their feelings of resentment and defensiveness.
Anytime the conversation starts with “you should…,” “you need to…,” “you have to…,”, or “you’d better…,” there is a demonstration of disrespect.
This type of communication causes problems not only because it sets up resentment; it also tends to invite a “no” response, resulting in upsets and fights.
2. Not Distinguishing the Problem from Your Partner
In every communication there are two elements present: the person you are relating to, and the problem you want to address.
When you attack your partner for something that was done or not done instead of discussing the issue, you set up resentment. Calling your partner “stupid” “useless” or “clueless” instead of addressing the issue will cause upset and more than likely confuse the problem and not get you to a resolution of the issue.
You will get resistance and your partner will more than likely feel angry, resentful, and hurt when you don’t distinguish them from the problem.
3. Generalized Statements
When you say “always,” “never,” “again,” “every time,” you are painting things in your relationship
with a generalized statement. These generalized statements are usually flavored with blame.
- “You are always late!”
- “You never take me out!”
- “You’re late again!”
- “You can’t be counted on every time!”
Generalized statements cause problems in many ways…
- There is no possibility for your partner to be any other way. The potential to change is discounted.
- Generalized statements discourage change. It is this way, and it will always be this way.
- Generalized statements cause fights. Your partner can come up with the exception to the generalized statement and you will end up arguing. If you say to your partner, “you never take out the trash,” your partner can come up with an exception and you will more than likely end up on a fight.
4. Belittling or Invalidating Your Partner
If you invalidate your partner’s feelings, you will cause instant resentment. They will feel hurt and angry.
This will cause your partner to shut down from you emotionally; they will need to protect themselves.
If you discount, belittle, minimize, ignore or negatively judge what is going on with your partner, there is a demonstration of lack of respect. At some point your partner will want to get away from you and the invalidation.
These four ways to communicate contempt will work like poison in your relationship – they will destroy the love, joy, and the well-being of having a close, personal bond.